Love Afar, Spite at Home

Thy love afar is spite at home.

–Emerson, “Self-Reliance

The United States is currently sending billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, prolonging the war there, and increasing the probability of escalation or even nuclear war, for a country that has zero bearing on our own national security. Our security was not threatened when Ukraine was a part of either the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation, and was not appreciably enhanced by Ukraine’s exit from the latter. None of this seems to figure in the calculations of those in favor of US intervention: intervention is for them an imperative, however inscrutable the reasons for it. Continue reading

Christine McVie (1943-2022), RIP

I can’t react to the death of Christine McVie without at the same time re-living the death of my wife Alison Bowles, who lived and breathed the music of Fleetwood Mac. That’s something I’d rather not do, at least in public, so I’ll leave it at the thought that like just about everyone of my age and background, I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, and even at my most “metal,” couldn’t help liking them. It was through Alison that I came to love them, and through Alison’s death that their music has become a constant reminder of her, and a bittersweet fixture in my psyche. Here’s my favorite one of McVie’s songs, which manages, at least for me, to conjure up the ghosts of childhood wonder, and with it, the evanescence of adult happiness. That’s probably not what she intended when she wrote it, but eventually, the creations of a great artist take on a life of their own.

Atlas Mugged

Bipartisan politics at its best:

Bipartisanship, noun: when the “party of free markets” makes a point of initiating legislative intervention into the economy, and the “party of labor” makes sure that the intervention favors management.

The grotesque (and grotesquely ironic) Ayn Rand-inspired puns will continue as long as the strikebreakers continue their aggressions. No justice, no aesthetic peace.

“Life After Privacy”: Thoughts on Big Data (2)

In a post I wrote about a month ago, I promised a series on Big Data, focused on Firmin DeBrabander’s book, Life After Privacy. Here’s part (2), a response to what I regard as DeBrabander’s excessively victim-blaming account of Big Data’s hold over us. 

A quick recap of the relevant part of DeBrabander’s argument: 

The book begins with a well-documented fact that by now should be common knowledge: Big Data, meaning the data-harvesting and data-mining branches of the modern corporation and modern state, have within just a few decades subverted almost all of the norms of privacy that preceded the rise of the Internet, and have created a surveillance state of unprecedented scope and power.

How did this happen? On DeBrabander’s account, our predicament might be likened to that of the Biblical Esau: we sold our privacy for the digital equivalent of a mess of pottage. In other words, Big Data gave us an iterated series of trade-offs, over decades, of convenience or self-expression over privacy. We cultivated societies of unbridled preference-satisfaction subject to the imperatives of immediate gratification. So we chose convenience and self-expression over privacy, iterated across billions of mouseclicks, and divested ourselves by our own hands, of our birthright.

Continue reading

“Started from the Bottom”

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

The Democrats, setting the standards for the next election:

Asked about concerns some Americans have about Mr. Biden’s age, Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Biden had the “most successful legislative record of any president since Lyndon Johnson,” citing achievements on infrastructure and gun policy.

Most successful since LBJ. Does that include or exclude the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

The Obligation to Vote Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, on Election Day, I wrote a somewhat wordy and maybe convoluted post arguing that under certain circumstances, we have a moral obligation to vote–not a legally enforceable obligation, but an obligation nonetheless. It’s possible that the conditions that I set out in my post are never or rarely met, but my primary aim was to defend the conditional involved, and only secondarily to reach the consequent: if certain conditions are met, among them the imminent electoral advent of fascism, one has an obligation to vote (against fascism). Continue reading

Bras, Breasts, Feminism, and Life Support

Not long ago, while applying for hospital-based jobs, it occurred to me that I lacked a certification that I really ought to have, namely, Basic Life Support, or BLS. From the website of the American Red Cross:

Basic Life Support, or BLS, generally refers to the type of care that first-responders, healthcare providers and public safety professionals provide to anyone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or an obstructed airway. It requires knowledge and skills in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using automated external defibrillators (AED) and relieving airway obstructions in patients of every age.

So I signed up for a class in my area, and decided to certify. It was relatively cheap, conveniently located, and scheduled to take all of four hours. A bargain. Continue reading

Fascism and the Obligation to Vote

Worried about the election? Ha, ha, me too! While we’re waiting to learn the fate of our country, I figured I’d kill some time by running a thought by you that I’ve been meaning to blog for awhile, but never had the chance to–until tonight. Oh, the irony. The question is whether the prospect of fascism for your polity gives you the obligation to vote. I kind of think it does. But you tell me.

Imagine that you have the right to vote, and that you care about the common good of the polity in which you have that right. Now suppose that, all things equal, fascism or the prospect of fascism would grievously subvert the common good. Presumably (all things equal), your caring about the common good gives you an obligation to promote it somehow. You would, I’d think, flout the demands of justice if you just sat there observing the real prospect of fascism, and did nothing about it–or even did something about it less efficacious in stopping its advent than some more efficacious option in your power. Continue reading

“The Settlers”: Voices from the Holy Land Film Salon

I’m pleased to announce that this Sunday, Nov. 13th at 3 pm ET, Voices from the Holy Land, in conjunction with Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago and Tzedek-Chicago, will be hosting a salon-style discussion of the documentary film “The Settlers.” It’s a public event, but requires free registration. The idea is to watch the film on one’s own time prior to the event, and then attend the discussion, featuring two veteran commentators, filmmaker Shimon Dotan and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, with moderator Lara Friedman. Here’s a link to the meeting registration, as well as to the film.

THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face-to-face with history. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.

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Run It “Like a Business”

I worked at banks for 16+ years, and I would like to see our PPS finances run like a business.
Rita Rafalovsky, candidate for Board of Education, Princeton Public Schools (PPS)

A candidate for Board of Education in my town, a banker, is running on the age-old slogan that the local school system ought to be “run like a business.” There are many ambiguities in this claim, but no need to chase them all down. It seems a sufficient objection to the slogan, and to any campaign based on it, that the public schools aren’t a business. So it makes no sense to try to run them as if they were. The more sensible approach might be to identify the kind of institution they actually are, or should be, and run them that way. Imagine walking into a business establishment and announcing that it ought to be “run like a school.” That would  obviously be absurd, but it’s no less absurd if you turn things around. Continue reading